United States. Military Commission to Europe.

Report of the Secretary of war : communicating the report of Captain George B. McClellan ... one of the officers sent to the seat of war in Europe, in 1855 and 1856 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Military Commission to EuropeReport of the Secretary of war : communicating the report of Captain George B. McClellan ... one of the officers sent to the seat of war in Europe, in 1855 and 1856 → online text (page 29 of 40)
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headstall, which, on the march, is sometimes taken off and hung on the carbine stock ; the halter
shank is a chain, and is worn in the field.

No schabraque is worn ; the pouches, valise, &c., present nothing peculiar.

There is a difference between the saddles for the heavy and light cavalry.

The cavalry are armed with the sabre, carbine, and pistol, with the exception of the lancers,
who have two pistols and a lance in lieu of the carbine.

The sabre is long, and has a steel guard ; it is formed rather for cutting than for thrusting.

Large numbers of the Drane & Adams' revolvers were being made at Liege for the English
cavalry ; none had been issued in the Crimea.

The Cape mounted riflemen have a sabre, pistol, and a carbine with a double barrel.

The carbine is carried in a boot, and has also a sling.

The cartridge-box is suspended from a shoulder belt.

The heavy cavalry wear helmets ; the light dragoons, shakos ; the hussars, fur cylindrical
hats, or shakos ; the lancers, the czapka.

The cuirassiers have both breast and back plate.

The frock-coat was in the course of adoption, but had been issued in the Crimea only to a
few regiments.

In the Crimea, the cavalry had their full dress.

The horses of the English cavalry are large and excellent ; for the heavy cavalry they leave
nothing to be desired ; it may be a question whether they have light cavalry, in the true
sense of the term, except, perhaps, some of the regiments who have been serving in India, and
are mounted on Indian horses ; for the men and horses of the light cavalry are scarcely to be
distinguished from those of the heavy, and it may be doubted whether they would stand the
severe work, exposure, and short rations, which usually fall to the lot of light cavalry in
campaign, as well as the less imposing but lighter and more active material of the light cavalry
of other nations.



The horses are usually purchased for each regiment.

The animals in the Crimea, in the fall of 1855, were mostly, I believe, remount horses, sent
out during the spring and summer ; they were generally excellent animals, of great power and
weight, but, although in fair effective condition, they were hardly in the state that might have
been expected, considering the small amount of work they were required to j^erform. They
were encamped upon broken ground, where but little regularity could be perceived in their

The men were under canvas, the horses generally blanketed at the picket ropes ; in some
few cases, exceptions to the rule, rough stables had been constructed.

The picket ropes were about 2' from the ground, and fastened to stakes some 20' apart ; the
horses secured to them by the halter chain or rope.

The camp equipage, cooking utensils, &c., do not differ materially from those of the infantry,
which will be described in their appropriate place.


The Himalaya was regarded as the most perfect horse transport ; the following description is
based upon notes taken during a visit to that vessel in the harbor of Balaklava :

She is an iron screw ship of 3,000 tons and 700 horse power, and can carry 380 horses, as
follows: on the spar deck 200, main deck 130, orlop deck 50; the corresponding number of
troops can be carried at the same time.

The Himalaya was purchased by the government, and commanded by Captain Priest, K. N ;
to the courtesy of that very intelligent officer we are indebted for the details contained herein.

Fig. a. Fig. 2 Fig. 1.





Slv'p's side

—7 -K





Fig. 1 is a section through the side boards of a stall.
Fig. 2, a longitudinal section along the axis.
Fig. 3 is the plan of stall.

A, are the halter rings.

B, the hook to which the sea halter is hung when not ia use.



C and E, projected buttons for securing tlie sling ropes shown in fig. 5.
D, sling bolt, for sling as shown in fig. 4.
F, hook to which the land halter is hung.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

Fig. 4 represents the canvas sling used on the Himalaya. Fig. 5 represents the sling a
recommended by Capt. Priest, and which he intended to adopt.

The tail board, as shown in the sketch, is permanently attached to the rear posts, and extends
to the floor ; it is padded nearly to the bottom ; it was intended to replace this by a board of the
same width as the side boards, and rounded off at top by a ^par, 4^" in diameter.

The breast and side boards all ship in grooves.

The side boards are padded on both sides ; the breast board on top and towards the horse.

The material used is felt, or raw hide (the latter objectionable on account of the odor) stuffed
with cow's hair wherever the animal can gnaw it, with straw in other parts ; the pads were
from 2" to 3" thick.

The feed trough is of wood, the edges bound with sheet iron or zinc, and attached to the head
board by two hooks.

The feed troughs, head boards, and stalls, are whitewashed and numbered.

The floor of the stalls is raised above the deck on buttons, and is divided into separate plat-
forms for every two stalls, so that it can easily be raised to clean the deck beneath ; 4 strong
buttons are nailed across to give the animals a foot hold.

In front of each head post there is a halter ring.

The sea halter is made of double canvas, 2" wide, and has two ropes, so that by fastening
one to each post the animal's head may be kept still, and he cannot interfere with his neighbor.

The slings are of canvas, of the shape and dimensions given in the figures. On the main
and orlop decks, the sling ropes are attached to sling bolts ; on the spar deck, to a button.

It was intended to adopt the arrangement shown in figure 5, as diminishing vibration.

At sea, the sling is used only in cases of necessity — that is, when the animal shows signs of
weakness in bad weather ; in this case, about 1" play is given to the sling, as it is only
intended to prevent the animal from falling.

The same sling, with the addition of a breast strap and breeching, is used for hoisting the
animals in and out.

Whenever it is possible, a staging is erected alongside, that the horses may be walked on
and off the ship.

On the spar deck, the stalls are under sheds, every 8 stalls forming a separate set, so that
they can readily be moved about when the decks are to be cleaned. Water-proof curtains are
provided for the front and rear ; a passage way of 2', as a minimum, is left between the sheds
and the bulwarks.

The other arrangements are as on the other decks.

To place the animals in the stalls, all the side boards are taken out, except that at the end of
the row ; a horse is then walked along the row to the last stall, and the other side board put
up ; then, a second horse is put in the next stall, in the same manner, &c. The horses should
always be placed in the stalls in the order in which they are accustomed to stand in the stable,
or at the picket rope.

35 ©


If it is desired, during the voyage, to remove any horse from his stall, it is only necessary to
remove the breast board and walk him out.

All wooden parts are washed with some disinfecting compoimd, or simply white washed.
Chloride of zinc is freely used.

The decks are washed every day, and the stalls cleaned after every feed, especially at 7 p. m.

From the spar and main decks, the stale passes off through the scuppers ; from the orlop
deck it passes to the hold, and is pumped off by the engine.

Not the slightest disagreeable odor could be detected on the Himalaya.

The feed troughs and the nostrils of the horses are washed every morning and evening with

For every 8 stalls a scraper, brush, and shovel, are allowed.

The horse guard always remain at their posts, and send for the farrier or non-commissioned
officers in case of necessity.

Great attention is paid to ventilation. Although the orlop deck is so hot that the animals
perspire a great deal, the animals carried there came off the voyage in better condition than the

The cavalry soldiers attend to the horses. So long as cleanliness is preserved, the com-
mander of the ship does not interfere as to the hours of feeding, &c.

A supply of forage is always carried on board the ship. The veterinaries take their own
medicines with them.

As a proof of the perfection of the system pursued on the Himalaya, it should be mentioned
that Captain Priest had transported 3,000 animals while in command of her ; some of these
direct from England to Balaklava. Out of this number but three (3) died.

The usual hours for feeding are :^6 a. m., 11 a. m., 5| p. m.; if any horse refuses his food, the
fact is reported at once. The horses drink condensed steam.

The regulation ration at sea is : 10 pounds of hay, 6 pounds of oats, | peck of bran, and 6
gallons of water — as a maximum.

It was thought that this was generally too great, and that two-thirds of this allowance, except
the water, would be amjjle, as it is found that there is great danger from over feeding at sea.

No grain is given the day they come on board, only a mash of bran, which latter is regarded as
the best habitual food at sea.

In concluding this subject of the transportation of horses at sea, I would call attention to the
little work of Lieut. Col. Shirley on the subject ; it contains many excellent hints ; but it must be
remembered that the system just explained is founded on a larger experience than that of Col.

In regard to the transportation of men, bunks and hammocks are generally used. Standing
bunks are found to be very objec-iionable, on account of the difficulty of keeping them clean ;
hammocks are regarded as preferabel for men in good health, while many officers consider it best
to provide neither hammocks nor bunks, but to allow the men to lie down on the fore decks with
their blankets and overcoats.

The following works may be consulted with advantage, as containing useful ideas :

Cavalry Outpost Duty, by Lieut. Col. Von Arentschildt.

The Cavalry Sword Exercise.

On the Training of Cavalry Remount Horses, by Capt. Nolan.

Cavalry, its History and Tactics, by Capt. Nolan.


December 24, 1856. Captain 1st Cavalry.




This consists of:

4 regiments of cavalry of tlie line, (heavy cavalry.)

5 regiments of light cavalry.

Each regiment consists of 4 active and 1 depot squadrons, and has a strength of about 35
otficers and 600 men.

The staff of a regiment consists of: 1 colonel or lieutenant colonel, 1 major, 2 adjutants, 1
paymaster, 1 captain and 1 lieutenant of clothing and supplies, 1 chaplain, 2 surgeons, 2 vete-
rinaries, 18 non-commissioned officers, &c.

Each active squadron is composed of :

1 captain, 2 1st lieutenants, 2 suh-lieutenants, 1 orderly sergeant, 4 sergeants, 11 corporals,
8 lance corporals, (or 1st class privates,) 2 trumpeters, 2 buglers, 1 farrier, 1 saddler, 110

Each depot squadron consists of:

1 cajjtain, 1 first lieutenant, 1 sub-lieutenant, 1 orderly sergeant, 2 sergeants, 5 corporals,
and 10 privates.

There are, in addition to regiments mentioned above, 6 squadrons of local cavalry in the island
of Sardinia ; the composition of these is nearly the same as that given above.

The four regiments of heavy cavalry are armed with the sabre, lance, and pistols ; they wear

Of the five light regiments, two are lancers, armed with the sabre, lance, and "pistolon;" the
other three are armed with sabre, pistol, and rifle.

The sabre is 3' long, broad, and nearly straight ; it has a steel scabbard and guard, the latter
solid towards the blade ; the gripe is unusually long.

The pistol is an ordinary percussion horse pistol, carried in the left holster, and secured to the
saddle by a leather strap attached to the guard.

The rifle has a barrel 30" long, and is carried slung over the left shoulder.

The "pistolon " is a rifled carbine with a 12" barrel ; it carries a spherical ball, and gives a
satisfactory range.

It may be used either as a pistol or carbine, although the stock does not detach ; it is habitu-
ally carried in the right holster, but there is also a common carbine sling for it ; there is also a
hook on one side of the stock, so that the men can hook it to the waist belt when they dismount.

The lance is about 9^' long, with a bayonet point, and a button at the end of the shaft ; a strap
of steel, 5' long, is screwed to the shaft ; pennon dark blue.

The sabre belt is much like our own.

The cartridge-box contains 30 rounds, and is suspended by a shoulder belt ; the pistol rammer
is attached to this belt.

The saddle is a bare wooden tree, very similar to the Hungarian ; a small pad and a scha-
braque are laid on top. A common blanket, folded in 12 thicknesses, is placed under the saddle.
Girth and surcingle of leather ; stirrups of steel, and light.

The snaffle is attached to the halter head stall by a chain and T ; the curb is also of steel, and
has a separate head stall, to which it is buckled.

The valise is of cloth, and 24" long ; a shelter tent, like that of the French, is carried under
the valise flap.

Spurs of steel, and fastened permanently to the boots.


All the cavalry wear a dark blue frock coat, with short skirts ; pants and overcoat very
nearly of the same color as our own. The cap resembles our dragoon shako very closely ; it
has a yellow water-proof cover, the hind flap of which ties over the shako, and a red spherical
pompon ; there is also a cover for the pompon.

The seat of the pants is re-enforced with cloth, the bottom of the legs with leather ; the
straps button on one side, and buckle on the other ; the pants have a black stripe.

In the Crimea there were 4 squadrons of light cavalry, two of which were lancers ; the
squadrons were about 130 strong. The ration of forage was 11 pounds of hay, and 8 quarts
of barley.

The horses were partly attached to the picket rope by the right fore foot ; some of them by a
rope or strap attached to a collar.

Their horses seemed to be excellent animals, but rather low in flesh ; they were mostly
Italian animals.

The appearance of the Sardinian cavalry, as indeed was that of their whole army in the
Crimea, was excellent ; indeed, the general appearance of their army was superior to that of
either of their allies.

It will be observed that there are no cuirassiers in the Sardinian army ; and that their heavy
cavalry differs from the light only in the size of the men and horses.


Captain 1st Cavalry.

December 25,. 1856.



Philadelphia, December 19, 1856.

Sir : I have the honor to submit the following remarks upon our cavalry :

The nature of its service being quite different from that performed by any in Euroj^e, we
ought not to follow blindly any one system, but should endeavor to select the good features,
and engraft them ujjon a system of our own.

The proper organization of our cavalry must depend upon the consideration of three things :
1st, the nature of its service against the Indians ; 2d, its employment against a civilized enemy
invading our territory ; 3d, its service in an offensive war, carried on against our neighbors.

The Indians, against whom our cavalry are brought to bear, are generally irregular light
horsemen, sometimes living and acting altogether on the plains, in other localities falling back
into the broken country when pursued ; the difficulty, always, is to catch them ; to do so, we
must be as light and quick as they are, fWid then, superiority of weapons and discipline must
uniformly give us the advantage.

Any army invading our territory must necessarily be deficient in cavalry ; in addition, the
nature of the parts of our frontiers most liable to attack is not suited to the action of large
bodies of cavalry, while in partial operations, light cavalry, well handled, ought always to be
superior to heavy cavalry.

Canada, Central Mexico, and the West Indies, are also unsuited to the operations of masses
of cavalry, and in none of them are we likely to encounter heavy cavalry, or large numbers of
light cavalry ; infantry and artillery must generally do most of the work, while light cavalry
will afford invaluable assistance, and in northern Mexico play an important part.

It would, therefore, seem that heavy cavalry would be worse than useless for our purj)oses,
and that we need only light cavalry, in the true and most strict sense of the term.

A light and simple model of horse equipments will soon be submitted.

I would propose that the regiments serving in localities where they are liable to be called
upon to dismount, to follow the Indians on foot, be armed with the sabre, (of the lio-ht pattern
recently submitted,) the revolver, and the pistol-carbine, or else a rifled weapon, longer and
more effective than the present carbine ; that those serving on the plains be armed onlv with
the sabre and revolver, giving to about 10 men in each platoon the pistol-carbine, or a long
rifled carbine in addition.

The accoutrements should be so arranged that when the men dismount to fight on foot, they
can hang the sabre to the saddle ; the pistol should always be carried on the person ; the
carbine slung over the shoulder.


The horses should he purchased hy cavalry officers, and he selected for activity, hardiness,
and endurance.

The men ought to be light, active, and intelligent.

The tactical unit should he small, that it may he handled with the greatest possible ease
and celerity, and that it may never he broken. The regiments, also, should be small, for the
same reasons.

The FOKMAXION OUGHT TO BE IN ONE RANK, as Covering the greatest extent of ground, admit-
ting the most rapid movements, and bringing every man to bear to the greatest advantage ;
suitable reserves should always be held in hand.

I would propose, as the unit, for interior service, and tactical purposes, the company, com-
posed as follows :

1 captain.

3 lieutenants.

1 orderly sergeant.

1 quartermaster sergeant.

1 veterinary sergeant. *

4 duty sergeants.
8 corporals.

66 privates.

2 trumpeters.
1 farrier.

1 saddler.

Total, 4 officers, 85 non-commissioned officers and rnen.

Of this number, 6 privates and the saddler to be dismounted, leaving the effective force of
combatants, 4 officers, 78 men, and 78 government horses.

It would be advantageous to create the grade of first class privates, say 20 in each company,
as a means of rewarding good and faithful old soldiers, who are not fitted to become non-com-
missioned officers ; they should receive somewhat more pay than the second class privates.
The company to be divided into two platoons, four sections, and sets of fours. The lieutenants
and non-commissioned officers to be attached to the same platoon and section, for the purposes
of drill and interior service.

The posts of the officers, &c., to be as follows :
*^ The captain in the rank, between the platoons ; when necessary, he can move to the front, his
place being left vacant ; the 1st lieutenant, commanding the 1st platoon, on the right of the
company; the 2d lieutenant, commanding the 2d platoon, on the left of the company; the 3d
lieutenant, as file closer, 4 paces in rear of the centre ; this officer not to be replaced if absent ;
the orderly^ sergeant, as file closer, two paces behind the right file ; the quartermaster sergeant,
two paces in rear of the left file ; the veterinary sergeant, half way between the orderly sergeant
and the 1st corporal ; the 1st duty sergeant, on the right of the 1st platoon ; the 2d, on the
left of the 2d platoon ; the 3d, on the left of the 1st platoon ; the 4th, on the right of the 2d
platoon ; the 1st corporal, as file closer, 2 paces in rear of the centre of the 1st section ; the 2d,
behind the 4th section ; the 3d, behind the 2d section ; the 4th, behind the 3d section ; the 5th,
to be the left file of the 1st section ; the 6th, to be the right file of the 4th section ; the 7th, to
be the right file of the 2d section ; the 8th, to be the left file of the 3d section ; the buglers,
2 paces behind the 2d files from the inner flanks of the platoons ; the farrier, half way between



the quartermaster sergeant and the 2(1 corporal ; the saddler and the dismounted men to remain
with the train.

It will be observed that the strength of the company is the same as now authorized ; it
requires another lieutenant, in place of the brevet 2d lieutenant, and the addition of 2 sergeants,
1 veterinary, 4 corporals, and 1 saddler, while the number of privates is diminished by 8.

Kegiments composed of 6 companies would be preferable to the present organization ; by the
addition of 2 companies to the 40 now in service, 7 effective regiments would be formed.

If this cannot be done, it would be well to decrease the number of companies in a regiinent
to 8, and form a 5th regiment of the 8 superfluous companies.

If neither of these plans can be adopted, it is believed that the modification proposed in the
organization of the company will of itself produce very beneficial results.

To the staff of each regiment there should be added a chief veterinary, with the rank of
sergeant major, or even as a commissioned ofiicer, and a chief saddler ; to the standard company
there should be allowed an additional sergeant as standard bearer, and a corporal as assistant,
or these two non-commissioned ofiicers might be attached to the staff.

If a band is considered necessary, the men ought to be considered as belonging to the staff,
in addition to the usual strength of the regiment, and not to be subtracted from the strength of
the companies ; it should be supported by the government, and not by the officers and regi-
mental fund.

It would be advisable that the hospital attendants be placed on the same footing ; and that a
proper number of teamsters be authorized for the staff and each company, to be enlisted or hired
as such, and not detailed from the companies ; those for the companies should be under the
sole control of the captains.

The junior field officers should have a direct, specific, and well defined authority over a
certain number of companies, the colonel taking the general direction ; in a new organization
it would be well to have 1 field officer for every 2 companies.

It ought to be laid down that detachments shall always be composed of men of the same com-
pany, and never of details from different companies ; in the same company, platoons, or sections
with their own officers and non-commissioned officers should, as far as practicable, be detached
as units.

If legislation is called for, and obtained in effecting a re-organization of our cavalry, I think
that it would be advisable to call the unit a squadron instead of company, in order to dis-
tinguish it from the infantry unit in reports, returns, &c., without the necessity of circumlocu-
tion. It is also of importance to obtain authority to enlist supernumerary recruits, who might
be kept at the cavalry school, or the European system of depot squadrons miglit be adopted ;
in time of war this system will be found to be absolutely necessary to maintain the cavalry
regiments in a state of efficiency, and the requisite laws should be obtained in time of peace
that there may be no delay in taking the i^roper measures at the right time.

A proper organization would authorize a moderate number of supernumerary officers of all
grades, for detail upon detached duty, so that the full number required by the tactics might
always be present with the regiments and companies.

The efficiency of the arm would be increased were there a general of cavalry, whose dutv it
would be to inspect the troops of the arm, watch over their interests, and secure uniformity in
the service. This officer ought to have a number of aides de camp, all cavalry officers, who
could make, under his orders, more frequent inspections than any one man could accomi^lish.
The most proper station for this officer would probably be Jefferson barracks, if that were


selected as the cavalry school ; he should never be located in Washington^ and should he
req[uired tomake a minimum number of inspections.


The individual instruction of man and horse should be regarded as the most important point

Online LibraryUnited States. Military Commission to EuropeReport of the Secretary of war : communicating the report of Captain George B. McClellan ... one of the officers sent to the seat of war in Europe, in 1855 and 1856 → online text (page 29 of 40)